Black Panther shattered box offices and is still dominating the theaters. It has shown that movies that aren’t the typical movie can be shown worldwide and do well. That is a victory all by itself. There are so many gems that made this Marvel film special. There are so many quotes that have already been adopted into black culture because of their significance.
One of those quotes is “Wakanda Forever!” Wakanda was a breakout star in this movie along with a beautiful and talented cast. Wakanda has its own life, characteristics and personality apart from the characters. Wakanda is this ideal country that most people of the African Diaspora want to claim, represent… descend from.
I had a sense of pride while watching “Black Panther.” If a movie is great you become engulfed in it, you are a part of the story line. This happens with “Black Panther.” I felt like I was there, in Wakanda. Imagine always going to the movies, and although the movie was good, you felt like a fly on the wall? You didn’t belong. You would stand out. The movie wouldn’t be the same if you were really there. Or, you would be seen as less than, inferior, to the overall view of the story. Or, the story represents people who look like you in such a negative way that you would never want to become a part of the life of that movie! “Black Panther” is a Marvel movie and it does what Marvel movies do. There is a superhero, villains, great action scenes and a light comedic feel that allows you to enjoy the movie with your entire family. But this movie had more!
“Black Panther” is the origin story of T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda. It presents King T’Challa to the world (after a sneak peek in another movie). The character was beautifully played by Chadwick Boseman, but he is only a part of why this movie was so important to black culture. Sure, there have been black superheroes that have been on the big screen. But, there has never been a black superhero movie that showcased black excellence. There were only black people impacting black people, from the fathers that were present in both T’Challa and Killmonger’s lives to the community of Wakanda that supported and encouraged greatness. The entire country was greatness!
Wakanda was a breakout success because there is no place on earth like it. Imagining a place where people who look like me, my ancestors, weren’t taken from their homes, placed in chains, and forced to work harshly like animals thousands of miles away from home. A place where colonialism didn’t infect the land like a plague. A place where everyone is respected, all thoughts are welcome, and we look out for the better of our people. We didn’t see sexism, colorism, ageism, or even a caste system. I loved it! I would move there tomorrow, and I’m not alone. “Wakanda Forever” indeed. Nevertheless, Wakanda was not perfect, as no place truly is.
Wakanda was this super country that could have protected the people of the African Diaspora from the beginning and chose not to. The people of Wakanda knew what was happening outside of their walls. That’s why they built the walls, but they didn’t care about anyone other than themselves. That was the dark secret of Wakanda, and it could have led to their downfall. Because of my lineage, I understood where Killmonger came from. Before he even showed up I questioned, “how could a place that could have stopped the atrocities of people who were their neighbors and looked like them do nothing? Why?” How can you continue to advance yourself and leave everyone else to the injustices that are happening worldwide?
Wakanda is fictional, but it did what real tribes and countries had done worldwide. Colonialism succeeded because tribes decided to ignore, and sometimes help, the enslavement of people who look like them. They helped in the stealing of land and resources because it wasn’t happening to them…until it did. This was how the world was colonized and is the reason behind the genocide of indigenous people, not only Africa.
This happens today. In families, places of worship, schools, communities, and countries. Most people only think of themselves and what can “fill in the blank” do for them. We must stop thinking that we are better than others. That we are exceptions to the stereotype. I know more college educated, professional black people than I know drug dealers and convicts. I know more people of African descent who came from a two-parent household. I have many friends who succeeded and have gone far even if they did come from a single parent household. My point is the narrative isn’t always the truth. It’s not my truth. I don’t want it to become the truth of any child that does see it that way in their life.
Everyone can’t go to Wakanda. Wakanda is a mindset that many people don’t want to have. There were people who wanted to boycott this movie because the lack of representation of other things that have dominated many movies before. There aren’t many movies that celebrate actual Pan-Africanism. Everyone can’t be included in every movie. I learned that as a young child when I didn’t see people who looked like me in most of the movies, stories, videos or cartoons. It was refreshing to see a place where women weren’t objectified (until Killmonger came) and it wasn’t about “the lighter the righter.” A place where being black wasn’t shamed or shunned.
Our problem is that everyone wants to be better than the idea of what “African” or “Black” is that was given by our oppressors. Most don’t realize that we are already that. I embrace being a part of the African Diaspora. I’m in love with the different hues, hair textures and colorful behaviors of my people, worldwide. Wakanda, the mindset, lives in me. It did before the movie, and it will long after the movie is off the radar. I refuse to look down on and not help people who look like me. How can I say that I have succeeded if I can’t go back to where I was raised because of the ills that are still present? That’s failure. We only really succeed if we try to allow everyone to benefit from the success.
This doesn’t mean to support people who don’t want to do better for themselves. This means to help your community see themselves as more than the stereotype that was given to them. It means to help them realize and nurture the gifts that they have been given. To give them a real chance at success. Support teachers but support teachers that care about the welfare of their students and the community they work in. Support first response, but first response must be there to help and not hurt the communities that they are serving. Support black businesses, but more importantly, support black businesses that support black/brown/under-served communities. Support small businesses but support small businesses that care about something. Nothing will change if we continue to support big businesses and organizations that don’t care about us or our future.